Illinois played a rare Sunday-Monday three-game series this weekend.
Weather in Minnesota caused game one on Friday and game two on Saturday to be postponed. Instead, the Illini suited up for a doubleheader Sunday and game three of the series got pushed all the way until Monday.
The Illini swept the double header on Sunday with 4-2 and 13-3 victories, but followed that up with a 5-4 loss on Monday.
Coming off an outing where Andy Fisher took a one-hitter into the ninth inning, the lefty had his work cut out for him against Minnesota. Pitching to contact, he out-dueled Minnesota ace Max Meyer.
Meyer gave up three earned runs for the first time all year, and Fisher gave up two in six innings.
Fisher had the defense working for him as well, with Branden Comia and Ben Troike providing gold-glove type defense behind Fisher. This led Fisher to his fourth win on the season, leading the Illini.
The old adage is pitching and defense win games — offense determines by how much.
Zac Taylor drove in two runs. Ben Troike led the way at the top of the order, tallying four hits from the leadoff spot, scoring once and driving in a run.
Freshman Cam McDonald added three hits and a run driven in to the Illini’s cause.
The bullpen dazzled in three shutout innings, surrendering only one baserunner by way of a walk. Garrett Acton secured his 11th save of the year.
As much as the story in game one was pitching and defense, the offense came out to shine in game two.
Taylor got the game going right away with a bomb, his first since returning from injury.
After that, the Illini never looked back. Taylor added another hit, another RBI, and another run scored for his day, giving him a 4-for-9, one home run, four-RBI day.
Kellen Sarver reached base all six times he came to the plate in the second game — five were walks. That feat for Sarver tied a program and Big Ten record.
The Illini saw runs batted in from Jeff Korte, Grant Van Scoy, McDonald, Sarver, Comia, and David Craan.
Ty Weber took advantage of the run support and delivered a quality start, six innings and two runs. Identical to that of Fisher in game one. Weber got his third win of the year in the doubleheader.
Game two’s win gave Illinois a clinch of their series with the Gophers, their fifth in a row at Minnesota.
“Our guys did a really good job today,” head coach Dan Hartleb said to Fightingillini.com. “We came out and beat a good pitcher in the first game and that set the tone. Really, really good wins. Today was a good day for us in a lot of areas.”
The Illini fell to Minnesota in the third game of the series, 5-4.
Taylor stayed hot at the plate, smoking a two run shot and scoring another run on a Jack Yalowitz RBI single.
Cam McDonald got the scoring going early with an RBI knock of his own.
Cyrillo Watson pitched well and exited with a lead. He went five innings and only gave up one run. Josh Harris worked a scoreless inning out of the pen. However, the rest of the bullpen seemed to be tired after working six innings in the doubleheader the day before.
With the game within one run, a controversial hit by pitch tied the game up.
Minnesota pushed the go-ahead run across on a fielder’s choice.
Despite a Michael Michalak double to lead off the ninth, the Illini were unable to tie the game, dropping the third game of the series.
AROUND THE BASES
- FIRST BASE Michael Massey missed the doubleheader with injury, just after returning to the field from his back injury. He played in the third game, but only at designated hitter.
- SECOND BASE Since the games were pushed back, the Illini were able to spend time with former Illini player and World Series Champion Scott Speizio and discuss the mental aspect of baseball.
Great hour-long conversation with former #Illini and World Series champion Scott Spiezio about the mental side of baseball.— Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) April 14, 2019
Thanks to his #Illini teammate Dave Wohlwend for hosting us tonight in Minnesota. pic.twitter.com/ScaeaZL2cv
- THIRD BASE The Illini improve to 19-7 on weekends and fall to 3-5 during the week.
- HOME The Illini have to travel back home Monday night to make it back to Champaign in time for their Tuesday contest against the in-state rival Bradley Braves.
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND
Important B1G doubleheader sweep.— Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) April 15, 2019
Five straight series Ws at Minnesota (2006, 08, 13, 17, 19)
Big day from @zactaylor15 (4-9, HR, 4 RBI)
Two quality starts
@Sarver_Kellen ties the single-game walks recordhttps://t.co/HRo4dOTlUD
HE SAID IT
“We did a really good job against (Meyer),” said Hartleb after Sunday’s doubleheader. “He’s going to be a top-round pick next year.”
The Illini host Bradley on Tuesday, finishing up their fourth game in three days. Over the weekend, Illinois will welcome Penn State for a series that will end on Easter Sunday as the Illini try to get back to .500 in the Big Ten.
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